Posted Jun 6 2010 10:41AM
There are nine teams with enough cap space to sign a free agent to a maximum contract this summer, with the Knicks having enough space to sign two. But there are only a few free agents that deserve a max deal, and they all may just re-sign with their current teams. So where should all that money go?
Clearly LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would top any team's wish list, but beyond the big two, some players will fit a team's needs better than others.
As you go through the teams with significant cap space, you find that a lot of them are in desperate need of shooting. There are some shooting specialists (Matt Bonner, Eddie House, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow) available this summer, but in order to really improve in a particular area, you need more than a specialist. You need someone that you can play major minutes without making a sacrifice elsewhere on the floor.
So guys like Ray Allen, Joe Johnson and even J.J. Redick, shooters who won't hurt you in other facets of the game, should have plenty of suitors come July 1.
Here are the nine teams with significant cap space, a look at their most pressing needs, and a suggestion for which free agent would help them address those needs best. Any team would welcome James or Wade with open arms, but they can each only wear one uniform, and early indications are that the latter is staying home.
Cap space: $34.1 million
Positional needs: PG, SG, PF, C
Statistical needs: Defense, rebounding
The Knicks haven't been a decent defensive team since the Van Gundy era and that's not likely to change under Mike D'Antoni. They have the Bird rights to David Lee, but essentially, they can count on just Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Toney Douglas coming back. James is obviously the primary target, but if they don't get him, they desperately need a playmaker at the point. That may be easier to come by via trade (perhaps with Chandler as the bait), because the Bobcats' Raymond Felton is about the only point guard option available in free agency.
Ideal fits: Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. Stoudemire will need someone to get him the ball, but we know he can flourish in D'Antoni's system. Johnson has also played under D'Antoni and can help run the offense if the Knicks fail to get a real point guard.
Cap space: $26.8 million
Positional needs: SF, PF
Statistical needs: Shooting, defense, rebounding
Though the Nets won less than half the games that the Knicks did this season, they're better set up on paper going forward. They've got a former All-Star at point guard and a future All-Star at center. Still, the characteristics they need (shooting and defense) won't be found easily at the positions they need (small forward and power forward).
Ideal fit: Dirk Nowitzki. This one is far-fetched, because the former MVP is not likely to leave Dallas, but he would certainly complement Brook Lopez well on the frontline, while also opening up driving lanes for former teammate Devin Harris. The Nets' top options with the third pick in the draft are big men, but David Lee is also a pretty good fit. Perimeter shooting will be harder to come by, so Redick should be on their wish list.
Cap space: $23.9 million
Positional needs: PG, SF, PF, C
Statistical needs: Shooting, rebounding
It's assumed that Dwyane Wade will return to Miami, but with the Heat reportedly shopping Michael Beasley, the only other players they have under contract are reserves. After Wade, the most likely player to return is Udonis Haslem, but after Wade, the first priority will be landing one of the available bigs: Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire. None of them have great defensive reputations, but if Erik Spoelstra can make the Heat's 2009-10 collection of free-agents-to-be into a strong defensive team, they should be in good shape on that end of the floor no matter what.
Ideal fit: Chris Bosh and Raymond Felton. Bosh isn't good enough to carry his own team, but would give Wade the capable running mate he's been missing. The face-up power forward could play alongside Haslem and won't take up space in the low post, so Wade's lanes to the basket would still be there. Felton is the best point guard on the market and would allow Mario Chalmers to maintain his role as a combo guard off the bench.
Cap space: $20.3 million
Positional needs: SG, PF
Statistical needs: Shooting, interior scoring
The Bulls were a top-10 defensive team this season and with Tom Thibodeau taking over on the bench next season, that won't change, even though Luol Deng, a strong defender, would be out of a job if the Bulls land James. Even if the Bulls do bring in a top-flight free agent, they will need to complement him with better shooting than they currently have. Only one team attempted fewer 3-pointers this season and only two shot them worse.
Ideal fit: Carlos Boozer. The power forward from Utah would give the Bulls the low-post presence they need and someone to run the screen-and-roll with Derrick Rose a few dozen times a game. On the other end of the floor, Thibodeau would be able to either help or hide Boozer's defensive deficiencies. Add a shooter to the mix and you have a team that's ready to take a big step forward.
Cap space: $20.0 million
Positional needs: SG, SF, PF, C
Statistical needs: Defense, interior scoring
Landing the No. 1 pick in the Lottery was huge, but John Wall plays the same position as the only legitimate starter the Wizards have left on their roster. So they're still several pieces short of where they need to be and can use anything they can get in free agency.
Ideal fit: Rudy Gay. Having gone the rebuilding route with their deals at the trade deadline, the Wizards have to think long-term. Gay is restricted, and the Grizzles may want to hold on to him, but he's the youngest (turning 24 in August) of the top free agents on the market and would be fun to watch in the open floor with Wall running the show.
Cap space: $19.2 million
Positional needs: SG, C
Statistical needs: Interior defense, shooting
With the fifth pick in the draft, the Kings have a chance to add a building block before they get to free agency. Sacramento isn't exactly a location draw, so this team may be best suited in going the same route as the Thunder. If they're patient and draft wisely, they can slowly build a winner.
Ideal fit: Anthony Morrow comes closest. The Warriors' guard is young and would complement Tyreke Evans in the backcourt, but he's restricted, so it would probably be difficult to pry him away from Golden State with a reasonably affordable offer sheet.
Cap space: $17.6 million
Positional needs: SF
Statistical needs: Shooting
The Clippers are arguably set at four positions. They have Baron Davis at the point, Eric Gordon at the two, Blake Griffin at the four and Chris Kaman at center. But the only other player they have under contract is DeAndre Jordan, so they need depth everywhere. Still, if they can find a starting-quality small forward, they will be in excellent shape. And there are some solid threes available.
Ideal fit: LeBron James. He's the best small forward in the business, and he'd also take some of the playmaking duties away from Davis. Rudy Gay is an obvious second option.
Cap space: $15.7 million
Positional needs: SG, SF
Statistical needs: Defense, shooting
Like Sacramento, Minneapolis probably isn't going to draw any high-profile free agents. So the Wolves will probably need to build through the draft (they have three first-round picks again this year, including No. 4) or through trades. If they really think that Al Jefferson and Kevin Love can't play together defensively, then they may be able to get a solid player in exchange for one of two. They currently have two huge holes at the wings.
Ideal fit: Gay, Morrow or Redick would give the Wolves another building block at the position of need, but all three are restricted and Minnesota shouldn't overpay in any case. If they're going to spend, they must do it wisely.
Cap space: $14.3 million
Positional needs: SG, C
Statistical needs: Shooting
The Thunder were a very good defensive team, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need more help offensively, especially from beyond the arc. They could continue being patient and allow James Harden and Serge Ibaka to develop, or they can finally choose to be aggressive in adding talent via trade or free agency.
Ideal fit: Bosh or Redick. If you can get Bosh, you get him. With Kevin Durant, you don't need him to be the star that the Raptors needed him to be. Redick would fit the long-term plan and give the Thunder the outside shooting that they need without being a liability on defense. He's restricted and probably won't come cheap, but as the team on this list closest to a championship, the Thunder have the most to gain by taking a financial risk.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
|November 24th: Top 10|
Count down the top ten plays from Tuesday night.
|November 24th: The Fast Break|
Get the best from all the action on the hardwood in Tuesday's Fast Break.
|Inside The NBA: EJ's Neato Stat|
Ernie and the guys talk about Dikembe Mutombo getting his jersey retired by the Atlanta Hawks and relive some of his more memorable blocks.
|Inside The NBA: Warriors Make History|
Shaq, Ernie, Kenny and Charles talk about the Warriors historic 16-0 start.
|Bulls vs. Trail Blazers|
Jimmy Butler scores 22 points and Derrick Rose adds 17 as the Bulls top the Blazers, 93-88.